By Angela Maria Hart
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick was a book that caught me by surprise. I LOVED it! When I first started reading My Life Next Door, I thought it was going to be reminiscent of Judy Bloom’s Forever or similar to The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle. But, as the story progressed, it moved past the teen romance element and into something much more intense. Fitzpatrick incorporated romance, moral dilemmas, and friendship dynamics. By around the 200-page mark, I could not put the book down. I was so engrossed in the storyline, I had to see what was going to happen.
Sam had been watching the family next door for years and learned abut them from a far. She was envious of their closeness and wanted to be a part of something similar. Sam’s mother always warned her not to get involved with them, looking down on their way of life – having so many children would certainly be a strain on their income and be troublesome. After all this time, Sam has never spoken to any of them, until one summer afternoon.
With a few little bumps in the beginning, Sam and Jase, one of the boys next door, strike up a sweet romance. I thought it was going to be a rather stereotypical romance but Huntley Fitzpatrick threw a few twists and turns in there that I did not anticipate. As someone who reads quite a bit, I can usually predict storylines rather well. The twist that she incorporated was not something that I saw coming. The dramatic turn made me like the book all the more because whenever I can not anticipate something, I become very intrigued and emotionally invested in the storyline and the outcome.
The twist and turns that the story takes is not something a reader can predict from the beginning. Sam tolerates her mother’s boyfriend and campaign manager, Clay, because he makes her happy, but his character traits become more well known as the story progresses. (I will metaphorically hold my tongue to avoid spoilers.) Jase’s family, the Garretts, have money problems with so many children to care for, so Jase knows he needs a sports scholarship to attend college. But, the problems that arise later on in the novel are not the ones that start the story. I have to give Huntley Fitzpatrick credit for her ability to write well and introduce new issues in each chapter for her characters to face. This could have very easily become a stereotypical YA novel, but it surpassed my expectations by miles.
I also loved the secondary characters. My favorite was Tim. Typically, I would not gravitate to a a character like him finding his disposition irksome – swearing, smoking, and taking advantage of others. But, Tim developed so much throughout the story. Fitzpatrick was able to demonstrate his emotional transformation very well. I become fonder of him with each passing chapter. Seeing his character progress, even though he’s a secondary character, is very interesting and fun. The little details that Fitzpatrick incorporated really made this a great read and a book I highly recommend.